Editorial✍ Hindu Edi Prelims cum Mains

An education that is in sync

Higher education in India:

  • Higher education in India has grown exponentially in recent years.
  • A survey by the All India Survey on Higher Education published in July this year shows that the gross enrolment ratio (GER) was 25.8% in 2017-18, up from 10% in 2004-05.
  • Though the GER for higher education in India is still less than what it is in developed countries, the growth rate is still quite impressive.
  • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER):
    • GER is the ratio (expressed as percentage), of the total enrolment within a country in a specific level of education (regardless of age), to the population in the official age group corresponding to this level of education.
    • For higher education, the survey calculates the ratio for the age group 18 to 23 years.

Focus should also be on Content of higher education:

  • The next step is to ensure that the outcome of academic programmes by higher education institutes (HEIs) is acceptable.
  • The debate in the media on higher education is often only focussed on issues related to governance and autonomy.
  • But there also needs to be a debate on the content of higher education in HEIs.
  • The purpose of higher education is to prepare graduates for work and life, as well as active and engaged citizenship.
  • What Einstein said:
    • Einstein said that the development of general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge.
    • If a person masters the fundamentals of his subject and has learned to think and work independently, he will surely find his way.

 

Radhakrishnan Commission Report (RCR):

  • Just after Independence, a commission comprising educationists chaired by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan was formed to report on Indian University Education and suggest improvements that may be desirable to suit present and future requirements of the country.
  • Its report filed after its deliberations (December 1948-August 1949) came to be known as the Radhakrishnan Commission Report (RCR).
  • The RCR drew inspiration from the emphasis on general education in universities in the U.S.
  • The philosophical deliberations in the report related to the content of higher education are still relevant today.

Recommended a well-balanced education:

  • The RCR recommended a well-balanced education with ‘general’, ‘liberal’ and ‘occupational’ components.
  • Without all-round general (including liberal) education, one could not be expected to play roles expected of a citizen outside one’s immediate professional sphere.
  • The report advocated that general education and specialised/professional education should proceed together.
  • The study of languages should be given equal importance as one communicated to the outside world only through the medium of language.

The American parallel – stress on Integration:

  • Recently, the National Academies Press (NAP) of the U.S. which represents the national academies of sciences, engineering and medicine published a report.
  • It attached importance to the integration of Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and Medicine and humanities in university teaching.
  • The NAP report goes much beyond what the RCR states and advocates integrating the teaching of humanities in STEM.
  • The employers also now seek graduates with more than just technical capabilities or in-depth knowledge in a particular subject.

 

Interdisciplinary problems in real life:

  • Problems in a real-life setting are interdisciplinary and require an appreciation of related fields.
  • Example:
    • This can be seen in two examples: rising demand for energy, and continuing advances in technology.
    • Energy: The use of energy on a large scale and the continued availability of energy in an environmental-friendly manner are challenges which cannot be addressed by narrow specialists.
    • Technology advancements: There are technical advances every day, influencing everyday life in diverse ways. This is also leading to concerns about privacy, technology-driven social and workforce changes, and the evolving need for individuals to retrain themselves to remain in employment.
  • In such a scenario, it is important that professionals study the impact of innovations on society in a holistic manner.

Integrated higher education can help deal with such problems:

  • The NAP report says that evidence shows that integration of the arts and humanities with STEM at the undergraduate level are associated with increased critical thinking abilities, higher order thinking and deeper learning, content mastery, creative problem solving, teamwork and communication skills.

 

The current reality in India – little integration seen:

  • HEIs in India are far from integrated.
  • As far as the inclusion of elements of general education in the curriculum for undergraduates is concerned, the situation is mixed.
  • Several engineering, and science education and research institutes have embedded general education programmes at the undergraduate level.
  • Such programmes are missing in most university-affiliated science colleges. In fact, there are institutions that cater to a single stream in which there is not even an informal interaction between students and faculty with different specialisations.

 

Conclusion:

  • The focus of undergraduate education should be on classical disciplines, with enough credits for general education.
  • Focus on specialisation can wait until the post graduate level.
  • It is time to bridge the divide between general education and specialised education in the education system and evolve a culture where the two sides understand and appreciate each other.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: Social Issues

 

Related question:

“The concept of general education and specialised education proceeding together needs to be widely adopted in India.” Discuss with reference to higher education in India.

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